Gov. Rendell and his wife, U.S. Appellate Judge Marjorie "Midge" Rendell, announced in an e-mail to friends today that they will be "living separately" now that they have left the Governor's Mansion in Harrisburg.

But don't let that prevent anyone from sending them invitations to the same party, the parting couple advised. The split after four decades of marriage is "amicable" and they won't find it awkward or uncomfortable to socialize together.

"Dear friends, we wanted to let you know that we have decided to embark upon this next phase of our lives by living separately," the e-mail said. "This has been a difficult decision, but we both believe it is the right thing to do. Our parting is amicable, and we will remain friends and continue to be active in our community, sometimes together, sometimes separately."

The couple asks for their friends to "respect our privacy, and our decision, and wish us well."

It is signed "Ed and Midge," with this postscript: "Please do not hesitate to include both of us in social occasions as we will not find it awkward or uncomfortable."

Midge Rendell, 64, is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. She and Rendell, 67, married in 1971, have one son, Jesse, who practices law in Philadelphia.

Their e-mail makes no mention of divorce or the cause for the split. But Rendell has long been the subject of speculation involving younger women, typically leggy blonds. Rendell most recently turned heads last May when he arrived at a typical Election Day lunch at the Famous 4th Street Deli with Dr. Kirstin Snow, a state employee and former Miss Pennsylvania. [Gov. Corbett's media office says Snow's job as director of Commonwealth Media Services ended on Jan. 18, the day Rendell left office.]

A PhillyClout item about the pair lingering over lunch after other pols had departed prompted Philadelphia Magazine in July to explore rumors of an affair. That story did little beyond giving voice to the speculation and then allowing Rendell and Snow to deny the rumor. The story ran with a portrait of a grinning Rendell seated as Snow stood smiling and standing behind him, resting her arms on his shoulders.

As Rendell's second term as governor was winding down, he and Snow were spotted around Harrisburg having dinner, attending her son's soccer games and enjoying the Susquehanna River on her pontoon boat.

But Rendell angrily avoided and then denounced the media after the Philadelphia Magazine story broke in July.

"No comment," Rendell fumed when asked about the story in the Capitol. "It's personal. It's between me and my family. There's no governmental interest here. What I said and what Dr. Snow said in Philadelphia magazine is the truth. That's it. Don't ask me again."

Snow told Philadelphia Magazine she was surprised it took so long for rumors to circulate about her relationship with the governor, adding that she worried about gossip hurting his wife.

Snow, who attained a doctorate in business administration through a distance learning program from Southwest University in Kenner, La., was Miss Pennsylvania in 1994, Mrs. Pennsylvania in 2005 and Mrs. American Dream in 2007. Twice divorced, she has also appeared in an infomercial for

Snow is not the first woman to spark speculation in newspaper and magazine articles about Rendell, a politician known for a big appetite for life. During his time as mayor he was often seen around Philadelphia with lobbyist Holly Kinser while she was married to former House Speaker Bill DeWeese. As governor, Rendell was also noticed to be very friendly with Leslie McCombs, a former Pittsburgh television anchor who went into lobbying.

UPDATE, 4:50 pm:  Kevin Feeley, a public relations executive who served in Rendell's mayoral administration, confirmed the existence of the e-mail from the couple.  Feeley said Rendell and his wife would have no further comment.

The couple, who would celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary on July 10, met in 1968 when she was a junior at the University of Pennsylvania and he was a third-year student at Villanova law school. A mutual friend – Phillies President Dave Montgomery – took Midge to a party at Rendell's apartment, also known as the "ape house."

The blond-haired, blue-eyed Midge caught Rendell's eye. And the next day he called Montgomery to see if he could take Midge out.

"He was very high energy in the way he talked and the things he talked about," Midge Rendell said in a 2003 interview with the Daily News. "He played mind games like if you were on a desert island, what three things would you take with you. We had a lot of fun.

They dated until her graduation, when she called it off to see what else was out there. But they renewed the romance in Washington, DC, where she was studying at Georgetown Law School and Rendell, then an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, went to campus to interview potential recruits.

They had dinner and then when she took him to the train station in Washington, D.C., she proposed. "He'd proposed to me before, so it wasn't like it came out of nowhere," she told the Daily News in 2003. "But I just asked him . . . . I don't think I did plan it."

And in July 1971 they married at the plush DuPont Country Club in Delaware. Midge transferred to Villanova, where she finished her law degree.

Midge Rendell became a U.S. District judge in 1994. She was appointed by President Bill Clinton and Sen. Arlen Specter helped steer her nomination through the U.S. Senate. Both were close allies of her husband. In 1997, she was elevated to the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals.